Let's start this latest morsel of Creative Cave goodness a bit differently than before, kicking things off with a little mental exercise. Take a trip through your mind's eye and picture your ideal customers. And don't short change yourself, but take a deep ol’ dive. Those folks making the purchasing decisions for their organizations – what's most important to them? What drives their decisions? And their turnoffs – bad service, candy corn, and mullets? Are they hip hop? Country? Open to new ideas or rigid like a steel girder?
Those detailed images that just swirled through your mind are your buyer personas, and they're amazingly insightful if you take the time and effort to make them as realistic as possible. So that's precisely what we at Creative Cave are going to do today – demystify buyer personas, discuss why they're so important to your B2B messaging, and give you some keen advice on how to unleash their power. Sounds pretty awesome, huh? So let's get going.
So What Exactly Are These Buyer Personas You Speak Of?
Well, that's a darn good question, Mr. or Ms. Reader, and we're glad you asked. Expanding on the sketches that our mental exercise hopefully created, your buyer personas are detailed expressions of your perfect customer based on actual data and market research. In the B2B world, those expressions are fictionalized versions of the very people that decide what products, services, and vendors their company uses. Think of them as the gatekeeper in front of the conversion castle, deciding who gets to enter, and who must try their luck at the next drawbridge.
Unfortunately, some people treat every gatekeeper the same which, as you know, won't get you very far in a highly diversified marketplace with countless personalities, problems, and competitors. Adopting a one-size-fits-all approach to your sales and marketing might work on occasion but, for the most part, will leave you on the outside of that castle looking in.
Adopting a one-size-fits-all approach to your sales and marketing might work on occasion but, for the most part, will leave you on the outside of that castle looking in.
That's exactly why we refer to them as buyer personas, and not a persona. Several different segments comprise your customer base, each with its own set of problems, buying criteria, and affinities. Sure, that might complicate things a tad, but it's actually no different than your everyday life. Whether at the office, supermarket, bowling alley, or car wash, you're always dealing with people from all walks of life and with different personalities. You've gotten this far by adapting to those varied personalities and environments, changing your demeanor, language, and sometimes even your appearance, depending on the situation, to maximize your chances for success.
Personas Gravitas: Why They're So Important to B2B Businesses
Developing different buyer personas lets you employ the same strategy to your sales and marketing as you do in your everyday life, building on the notion that every company within your target segments, verticals, or industries is unique. The good news, of course, is that your product or service could be an ideal solution for each of those companies, making detailed personas invaluable guides for your messaging. They help you develop a customized approach that improves your chances of engaging and converting each of the many different versions of your target customer across your customer base.
Once you have buyer personas in place that target both decision-makers in your audience as well as those that influence those decision-makers, you have a solid footing for your brand, product, and service messaging. From there, you essentially have a content compass in place to navigate your inbound marketing strategy, inform your paid media targeting and messaging, and train your sales team.
Taking a more detailed perspective, your personas inform the copy you use in emails, content, CTAs, social media posts, and any other form of messaging to your target segments. Using this tailored approach in your inbound content lets you show ever-important empathy towards your audience, that you understand their problems and perspective, and can provide effective solutions. When coupled with content specifically designed for each stage of the buying process, that persona-driven empathy fosters engagement and prompts them further down the funnel.
Buyer personas are also essential to your sales team, helping them effectively communicate with both current and potential customers. They inform conversations and prepare your team to overcome many of the hurdles they're likely to experience when dealing with specific customer segments. In that sense, while personas are obviously vital to your marketing and content efforts, they also help inform your entire sales process as well as onboarding and training. Between your inbound marketing, messaging, and sales, buyer personas help you create a sense of consistency and reliability across every phase of your sales cycle.
Developing a B2B Buyer Persona
Now that you understand what a buyer persona is and why they are so important to your B2B marketing, it's time to develop your personas to turbocharge your messaging. As is usually the case with Creative Cave, we take an organized and meticulous approach to this process that occurs over a series of steps.
1. Identify Your Buyer Personas
The first step in developing your buyer personas is to identify the segments within your target audience. Ideally, this is a group exercise where you gather the troops and seek the input of anyone that has extensive knowledge of your existing customer base as well as key potential segments. This usually involves sales and marketing leaders, but could also include product, operations, or even customer relations staff.
Basically, you're looking for those that regularly interact with the customers and thoroughly understand their problems and concerns. Frontline sales and customer-facing people are ideal for this stage as they likely have a better grasp on the nuances of your target audience then your executive team. Whomever you choose to help identify your buyer personas, though, your primary goal is to make sure you have enough people that can speak from different angles and perspectives to ensure no target segment slips through the cracks.
Frontline sales and customer-facing people are ideal for this stage as they likely have a better grasp on the nuances of your target audience then your executive team.
2. Optimize Your Hive Mind
At this point, you've reached out to the people that will help you identify your buyer personas and must now make sure your marketing hive mind is as beneficial to the process as possible. Establish expectations within the group you'll be working with, making sure they understand that you won't complete the identification process over a single catered lunch or happy hour.
Identifying your personas is a lengthy process that almost always takes longer than you initially thought, particularly when you have either have numerous personas to develop or multiple business lines with different personas within them. That's not to say that the process will bleed into the next lunar cycle but, from our own experiences, it will likely play itself out across a handful of separate meetings.
Once you're underway and your groupthink is cruising along in high gear, remember that you also want to identify and collect information for any negative personas as well. These represent the people that you want to avoid throughout your sales cycle. No, this isn't halitosis-related or because they're a Rockets fan – yeah, we said it – but simply because they're outside of your ideal customer segments.
For instance, these negative personas might include people in need of something more advanced than the product or service you can provide them, or maybe a curious freshman just researching for a term paper. Either way, keep your customer acquisition costs in the back of your mind as your team thinks of personas that you want to avoid, thereby minimizing the impact of low average sales prices, churn, and fickle customers you probably won't ever see again.
Also, try to avoid being too narrow-minded by allowing job titles to dictate your personas rather than the specific roles and functions those personas occupy within an organization. Using our own client base as an example, we were working with an HR tech company on establishing personas for HR professionals in charge of employee engagement within their enterprise. Since such positions are still relatively new in most organizations – along with the fact that every company in every industry has an HR department – there was a significant variance in job titles involved with employee engagement in an enterprise. Therefore, we needed to look beyond those titles and use roles and responsibilities as we identified and began to research the personas.
3. The Nitty Gritty: Developing Each Buyer Persona
Thanks to your team, you now know who to target, who to avoid, and must now start building out your different personas. Since this step requires you to be extremely thorough to make your personas as detailed and insightful as possible, Creative Cave has your back with our super handy B2B Buyer Persona Template which, naturally, you're more than welcome to use as your own.
As you'll see from our template, we take a pretty darn granular approach to our personas, but we promise it's not to add to your already lengthy list of things to do. For your buyer personas to truly guide your messaging, however, it's critical that you ask the right questions and find precise answers, a task our template is especially adept at guiding you through.
For your buyer personas to truly guide your messaging, however, it's critical that you ask the right questions and find precise answers.
Once your team has completed the persona build outs, scheduling interviews with your customers – both existing and potential – is a crucial best practice. Sending out surveys can add some needed efficiency to this step, especially if you're targeting a wide array of customers. As you collect information from your segments, take note of any particular language they use that might differ from yours. Misaligned industry shorthand might not seem like a big deal at first, but any semblance of inexperience will work against you and your messaging, even when it's purely a matter of semantics.
Likewise, as you collect and analyze information from your customers, try to get an accurate gauge of your product or service's value, both to them as well as the marketplace itself. For instance, posing your widget as an earth-shattering solution when your customer's look at it as more of a convenience won't do you any favors. Frame your message within the proper context to avoid the dreaded head scratching and furrowed brow from your audience as they read your content.
How Our Personas Differ From HubSpot
So that's how we establish our buyer personas. Makes sense, right? We understand that our process might differ a bit from others, but we promise there's a method to our madness. To that point, one of the most significant differences between our approach and HubSpot's are the stock photos and generic persona names they use – Finance Manager Margie, IT Ian, Landscaper Larry. While we absolutely understand the benefits of humanizing the personas, letting a sales team and marketers feel a stronger connection and more empathy towards them, we take a slightly different approach.
From our experience, we've found that assigning the photos and names isn't worth the extra time and effort, diluting the strength of the personas by people spending too much energy on things that ultimately don't provide enough value. We want sales teams and marketers to focus on the intricacies of the personas, not catchy nicknames and dashing photos.
And that’s about it, another small dose of the Creative Cave secret sauce that's propelled our growth to some pretty significant heights in a relatively short amount of time. Granted, there's a whole lot more where that came from, but that's why we're only a quick email away. When it's time to elevate your messaging and realize the conversions you already know your business is capable of, Creative Cave is here to help lead the charge.